Micro-environmental features associated to container-dwelling mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) in an urban cemetery of the Dominican Republic
Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) are important vectors of diverse pathogenic organisms, particularly arboviruses and protozoa. The immature stages of mosquitoes occur in a wide range of natural or human-made aquatic habitats. On this basis, some anthropogenic places such as cemeteries, usually serve as thrive and productive artificial-breeding habitats for mosquitoes. Despite being important foci for vector species, urban cemeteries are frequently overlooked in control and surveillance programs. This study evaluates the association of ecological variables and attributes (type of material, presence of flowers, water availability and height from the ground) of the breeding sites with the levels of infestation of mosquito immature stages. In 2017, an entire urban cemetery in Jarabacoa (Dominican Republic) was sampled at two different climatic periods (March: dry and August: rainy) for the characterization of the artificial breeding-sites, collection of immature stages of culicids and subsequent laboratory rearing for species identification. In total 968 containers were studied, containing 7 758 immature stages in 203 (21.0 %) water-filled containers which accounted for four species: Culex quinquefasciatus (50.5 %), Aedes aegypti (47.1 %), Aedes albopictus (1.9 %) and Culex nigripalpus (0.4 %). The mean of A. aegypti immatures in infested containers was roughly two times higher compared to C. quinquefasciatus and significantly lower compared to A. albopictus. The total Container Index (CI) was 20.9 %, and among the type of materials, those made from rock (cement, ceramic, and mud) and plastic had the highest CI = 25.9 % and 23.4 %, respectively. Almost 95 % of the total infested water-filled containers were made of plastic or rock. No association was found between the type of material of the containers and the density of mosquitoes. However, overall, greater densities of immature stages were found at ground than at higher levels. A weak positive correlation between water volume and density was found in some species of immature stages. Significantly higher number of C. quinquefasciatus were recorded in containers with flowers and large water volume. In contrast, A. aegypti immature stages were more frequent in containers without flowers. A weak negative association between water volume and infestations was found for A. albopictus immatures. As reflected of their opportunistic behaviour and broad ecological plasticity, Culex spp. and Aedes spp. mosquitoes were abundant pests in cemetery habitats where were able to breed in almost any kind of water-filled container regardless the type of material. However, our study showed that some ecological variables have critical impact for the development of the immature stages of some species. The health authorities and cemetery keepers can benefit from these results by focusing on the implementation of detailed plans and integrated strategies for the control and prevention of cemetery infestations by mosquitoes.